Yet again, Kevin Durant came up huge in a game without Stephen Curry.
“Nothing's different,” Durant said. “Just more opportunity.”
At this point in his career, there really shouldn’t be all that many surprises left in Durant’s game. Yet his last two-game spurt has left many watchers flabbergasted. Coach Steve Kerr recently called having a player of this caliber waiting to step up a “luxury” and Durant has been doing everything in his power to remind us all exactly how deeply luxuriant his play can be.
After his impressive showing earlier in the week, Durant reminded everyone that he is playing with his full arsenal on display right now.
"Tonight, it felt like I could go in my bag of tools, my bag of tricks to pull some stuff out,” Durant said, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN. “I don't expect it to be like that every single game, but tonight I thought it called for it."
When Durant gave Kristaps Porzingis the unique nickname of The Unicorn, it stuck; it’s such a weird reminder of the almost magical completeness of his game. He was talking about Prorzingis here, but Durant may as well have been describing himself. “He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he's a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the 3-point line,” Durant said in early 2016. “That's rare. And block shots—that's like a unicorn in this league.
Kevin Durant is the first Warriors player with 35 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks since blocks became an official stat in 1973-74— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 9, 2017
On Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets, Durant tallied an impressive first frame: 16 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one block in the first quarter of a game that he dominated from start to finish.
Last night, he did it yet again. You could almost think that he was doing this on purpose. One Redditor created a graphic representation of how Durant changes his game when Steph Curry isn’t available.
Like basically every player in the league, Durant’s efficiency falls off a bit without Curry sharing the court. But Durant works around this by being more efficient at the rim and increasing his usage so that he gets more opportunities to impact the game. This sort of flexibility demonstrates the depth of Durant’s game and the power of that flexibility when he applies himself to fulfill his offensive role.
As per NBC Sports, Durant has stepped up his game in Curry’s absence: In the last two games without Stephen Curry, Durant's scored at least 35 points, snagged at least 10 rebounds, and assisted at least seven times.
From the always amazing Anthony Slater of The Athletic, just take a look at Durant single-handedly blowing out a team in the 3rd quarter last night. This is what 10 points in just over two minutes can look like:
Defense wins ballgames. Kevin Durant wins ballgames.
But now to get back to my headline. If Durant was just doing big things on offense, it would still be remarkable, but just not nearly as noteworthy. The fact that Durant is blowing up on offense while simultaneously shutting the other team down on defense is probably the most impressive aspect of his tenure with the Warriors.
Durant, while generally known for his silky smooth offense, has not so quietly come into his own as a defensive force. After his dominant five blocks last night, Durant is averaging 2.1 blocks per game - a career-high that is almost double his previous average.
Just scoring over 35 points per game would be nice. But over the past two games without Curry, Durant has posted lines of 35, 11, and 10, and then 36, 10, 7, and 5.
That’s pretty damn Wonderful.
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